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Revision Guide. Edexcel GCSE Religious Studies Unit 2.2 - Matters of Life and Death. Key Words. Sanctity of Life : the belief that life is holy and comes from God. Abortion : the removal of a foetus from the womb before it can survive.

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Revision Guide

Edexcel GCSE Religious Studies

Unit 2.2 - Matters of Life and Death

Key Words

Sanctity of Life:the belief that life is holy and comes from God.

Abortion: the removal of a foetus from the womb before it can survive.

Quality of Life: the idea that life must feel like it is worth living.

Euthanasia: bringing about a premature but painless and gentle death.

Voluntary Euthanasia: ending life painlessly when someone in great pain requests death.

Non-Voluntary Euthanasia: ending someone’s life painlessly in their best interest when they are incapable of requesting death themselves .

Assisted Suicide: helping a seriously ill person to commit suicide.

Near-Death Experience: when someone about to die has an out of body experience.

Paranormal: unexplained things which are thought to have spiritual causes e.g. ghosts, mediums.

Reincarnation: when souls, after death, are reborn in a new body.

Resurrection: when after death, the body stays in the grave until the end of the world when it is raised.

Immortality of the Soul: the idea that the soul lives on after death.

Immortality of the Soul & Life After Death

Christians believe in life after death for many reasons. It gives reassurance, a purpose to life and a purpose to death.

A new heavenly body for the soul

New resurrection body



Secular Views on Life After Death

Many people have non-religious reasons for believing in life after death.

Why people don’t believe in Life After Death

Many people have non-religious reasons for believing in life after death.

  • Humanists believe that ‘we only live once and this life is not a dress rehearsal’. Make the most of our life and appreciate what we have. We live on only in the memories of others and our molecules return to the natural world where they came from.

‘The Sanctity of life’

Sanctity of Life (SoL): ‘Life is precious because God gave it, therefore only God has the right to take it.’

The Bible says,

‘God created

Humans in His

own image.’

Genesis 1:27

The Bible also says, ‘The Lord

God formed man

and breathed

lifeinto him.’

Genesis 2:7

Revision tip: including Bible verses as evidence helps secure HIGHER grades.

‘The Sanctity of life’

‘Humans are made like God, so whoever sheds the blood of a man, by man will his blood be shed.’

‘Do not commit murder.’

  • Exodus 20:13

‘Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you. You do not belong to yourselves but to God.’

  • Genesis 9:6

‘You created every part of me, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.’

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19

  • Psalm 139:13

  • (also Jeremiah 1:5)

Top Tip: Quotes from the Bible are often seen as

the best kind of evidence to show Christian belief.

Life: When Does It Begin?

Heart Beat: When the heart starts to beat around week 9 of the pregnancy.

Conception: When the sperm meets the egg resulting in pregnancy

Viable. When the baby is able to survive outside of the womb. Around week 24 of the pregnancy.

Birth: When the baby is born. Usually 40 weeks into pregnancy.

The Law and Abortion

The 1967 ‘Abortion Act’ states

TWO doctors must agree that ONE of the following is true:

  • The mother’s life is at risk.

  • The mother’s physical or mentalhealth may be at risk.

  • The wellbeing of an existing child may be at risk with the arrival of an additional child.

  • There is a substantialrisk the child may be

  • born seriously handicapped.

The 1990 Act states

abortions cannot take place after 24 weeks unless the mother’s life is at risk.


(under certain circumstances)


(under any circumstances)

E.g. Methodist & Quakers E.g. Catholics & Evangelicals


The word ‘Euthanasia’ comes from two Greek words:







‘A Good Death’

“My life, my death, my choice”

Terry Pratchett

Or ‘The act of bringing about an easy and painless death.’

It is mainly seen as a release for those suffering with an incurable and/or degenerativedisease, or for those who are in a ‘Permanent Vegetative

State’ (PVS).

Why keep someone alive when “all dignity, beauty and meaning of life has gone” and when you would be punished by the state for keeping an animal in the same conditions.

Dr Lesley Weatherhead

The Methodist Church

Within the UK there is currently no law that directly deals with euthanasia. However, the act of taking a life is dealt with under murder laws, and the 1961 Suicide Act states ‘A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another is liable to imprisonment for up to 14 years.’

Arguments For Euthanasia

Arguments Against Euthanasia

Life comes from God. Only God has the right to give and take life, i.e. the ‘Sanctity of Life.’

Suffering sometimes helps people feel closer to God and understand what Christ went through.

Allowing euthanasia could be open to abuse e.g. murder disguised as euthanasia.

There are alternatives such as palliative care available.

There is nothing dignified about taking a person’s life.

  • Helping a person to end their suffering is the most loving thing to do.

  • God has given us the ability to think for ourselves; we should therefore be able to choose.

  • People should be allowed to die with dignity.

  • People don’t want to be a burden.

  • Keeping someone alive artificially with medicine and machines could go against God’s wishes by preventing their death.

Precedent: Legalising euthanasia in some circumstances sets what is called a ‘precedent’ for the future. In other words; to allow one now makes it hard to disallow others in the future.

Right to Life: Diane Pretty argued that with the ‘right to life’ came a right to reject life. The High Court in London said that the right to life was not the same as the right to die.

Moral Arguments

Surrounding Euthanasia

Medical Society: All doctors agree to attempt to save life at all costs, this is called the ‘Hippocratic Oath’. The British Medical Association (BMA) opposes the legalisation of euthanasia.

Medical Implications: New cures are being discovered all the time and if someone is allowed to die today – a cure may have been found tomorrow

Quality of Life: People argue that having noquality of life is an argument for euthanasia. However, this argument relies on a personal idea on what ‘quality of life’ actually means.

Case Study 2: Diane Pretty

In 1999 Diane Pretty was diagnosed with the illness Motor Neurone Disease (MND), an incurable disorder causing progressive weakening of the muscles. Diane Pretty lost almost all use of her limbs and was confined to a wheelchair. Diane Pretty, 43, had been married to her husband, Brian, for 23 years. Mrs Pretty wanted to be able to end her life before the disease did. As she was physically unable to commit suicide, Mrs Pretty wanted her husband to assist her suicide. Mrs Pretty asked the courts to promise that her husband would not face criminal charges if he helped her commit suicide. Mrs Pretty lost her fight with the courts and died of MND on May 11th 2002.

Key Quote: “The courts have taken away my rights”.

They courts ruled that her right to live did not also mean her right to die.

The media criticizing beliefs
The media criticizing beliefs

The UK is a free country and it is one our human rights to say what we think

The Press should be free to say what it wants about a religion and the religion can say what it wants back – that is freedom of speech

The media can expose extreme views and prevents religions saying and doing dangerous things

Sir Karl Popper said that freedom of expression is essential for societies to progress

People’s religious beliefs are personal and shouldn’t be made fun of

It can lead to religious hatred if a religion is presented in a bad light

Its easy to be biased and get a laugh or reaction rather than presenting a difficult situation sensitively

Religious opinions don’t sell newspapers unless they are very extreme and often stereotypes rather than real beliefs

It can cause offence e.g. Danish cartoons of Muhammad

The Media & Matters of Life and Death

Episode of the Simpsons relating to heaven and hell. Shows the Christian beliefs in a humorous way.

This is not really biased either for or against Christian beliefs, it was a funny episode and got across the fact that Christians believe people go to Heaven or Hell depending on how good they are in this life.

Some Christians might be offended because this is a very serious belief being portrayed in a comedy, (e.g. Homer smelling roast port) and because this belief was presented in a very simplistic and childlike way, but others might not mind because it was not being ridiculed but was quite factual.

Showing religious beliefs in a comedy like this in some ways helps people who have religious beliefs as it explains their beliefs to society in a light hearted way. However, this can also cause a problem because their beliefs can become a target of ridicule if they are made into a joke and if they are part of a cartoon, they might not be taken seriously.

The Media & Matters of Life and Death

The issue of Abortionwas tackled in a documentary “A Matter of Life and Death’ with Miranda Sawyer.

GCSE questions in this section will focus on how an issue is dealt with and if religious people and their beliefs were treated fairly.

Miranda explores the question of when does life begin. She travelled around the southern states of America and visited Christians and abortion clinics.

She talked to Doctors, showed medical evidence of what an abortion is like and talked to Christians who were Pro-Life – against Abortion.

This was fair in that Miranda had no personal bias – she was exploring the issue of when does life begin. She had no religious beliefs but was happy to talk to both sides

However – there was bias in that the Christians she interviewed were very extreme in their beliefs (e.g. Roy who shouted at the women going to the clinics) and she didn’t interview any Christians who held more liberal views (e.g. who might do the most loving action).

Causes of World Poverty


More Economically Developed Countries (First World Countries). E.g. USA, UK, Australia.


Economically Developing Countries (Second World Countries). E.g. Mexico, India, Malaysia.


Less Economically Developed Countries (Third World Countries). E.g. Zimbabwe, Somalia, Afghanistan.

Unfair Trade

World trade is dominated by the rich countries who pay low prices to poor countries and can pay subsidies to their own farmers to mass produce cheap goods for export.

Other Causes

Diseases such as HIV/AIDS and illnesses caused by lack of food & poor sanitation, kills many adults leaving many orphans. A lack of education also contributes to a country’s poverty.

Natural Disasters

Many LEDCs are situated in areas of the world where natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, and drought). This often affects the ability to grow crops for profit.


Poorer countries borrow money from world banks. Interest is charged on these loans resulting in countries paying billions in interest whilst not reducing their debt.


Many poor countries are affected by war which destroys homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and ends international investment as well as taking lives.

Christian Aid

Most religions have groups which are working for world development.

Their main motivation is to demonstrate Christian principles to help the needy

  • Christian Aid - www.

  • Key Quotes “Eradicating the causes of poverty, striving to achieve equality, dignity and freedom for all, regardless of faith or nationality”

  • “Dealing with the causes, not just the symptoms”

  • They do what they do because they believe God created all people equally and they should be treated equally. They are also following the parable of the Good Samaritan and ‘loving their neighbour’.

  • Examples:

  • Working in Haiti providing timber for building shelters for those affected by the earthquake

  • Working in Afghanistan to help educate about AIDS

  • Working in Africa to provide water and to dig wells to provide people in drought regions with the means to get water.